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Private sector recruits don't have 'mystical powers', and have actually been responsible for many policy disasters. Why Simon Phemister still believes in 'frank and fearless'

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Twenty-eight years of economic prosperity has led to spending becoming the default policy lever, worries Victorian Department of Jobs, Precincts and Regions boss Simon Phemister. Plus, why he thinks ministers do value frank and fearless advice and is wary of private-sector plants.

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The gap between assumptions and reality is a policymaker’s risk. To bridge it, you need a research goal and the right questions to ask

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When we want to be be perceived as having answers rather than as knowing what questions to ask, we are putting the cart before the horse. It means we end up prescribing activities with no clear goals. The best course of action is always determined by the sort of question we need to answer. Here are the mental traps to look out for.

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Advancing gender equality in Victoria Police took asking the right questions to unearth the surprising barriers holding back progress

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Two leaders in policing reflect on the practical changes they made to boost the number of women hired and promoted at Victoria Police. Doing so did more than just make itself look good on paper, but contributed to addressing its greatest operational challenge, keeping women and children safe in those contexts where they should be safest.

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What to do when your minister’s policy range is less than what’s demanded of the role. Engage with them at every opportunity to build trust and create an echo chamber

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How can a public servant have a role in policy leadership while not overstepping the line? The nuance required couldn't be found in the guideposts defined by Australian Prime Minister Scott Morrison. Instead, some point to the stewardship function, in which public servants find themselves navigating determined politicians and a public in need of sustainable policy.

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New in government, you are? Succeed and make an impact by mastering perspective before skill. Think, observe — only then, do

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Joseph Maltby is a subject matter expert in change management, employee engagement, and project/program management who worked in the US Department of Homeland Security as the chief of organisational culture and development. He gives us the benefit of his sound advice on how to tailor one's mindset to the practical reality of working in government and the public sector. Follow his path and secure a long and fulfilling career in public service, you will.